Visas And Visa Agents
A word of warning to anyone that is contemplating sending their passport with a "visa agent" to obtain a new visa.
After having travelled around Thailand for 3 months I returned to BKK only to realize that I was not ready to return to my home country. I wanted more time to explore BKK and by the time I got around to sending my passport I had a 5 day overstay. I asked at the travel agent in the foyer of the hotel where I was staying if they could help me out, sure they could 1900.- baht for the stamp and 10 days overstay totalling 3900.- baht. They informed me that I would get my passport back after 5 days. Fine I think, give them my passport and payment and get a receipt.
On the 5th day I went to pick my passport up only to find that there was someone else working at the agent and didn't know anything about my passport, she informed me that the person that I had dealt with had gone on a one month holiday! I politely insisted that she investigate the matter and after several phone calls she informs me that my passport would not be back for another 4 days. This was a slight relief for me but I was still a little apprehensive about the whole situation.
To make matters worse, the same day I went to an ATM to withdraw some cash only to find that my credit card had reached its limit. Here I was in BKK with no money and no passport. Luckily I was entertaining the GFE and it turned out that this girl was one in a million, she said that I need not worry as she had some money and would look after me until I got things sorted out. Which she did, she lent me money, explained to the hotel my situation and generally looked out for me.
Anyway, four days pass and I get my financial situation sorted out, we go to pick up my passport but it still hasn't arrived and we are told that its going to take another 3 days before it was back in BKK. Now I'm getting a bit fed up with all this but of course there is little I could do in this situation. Three days later we return and to my relief my passport was there. Now I could enjoy myself without this cloud hanging over my head.
Little did I know that the cloud had not disappeared totally. It returned when I applied for a 10 day extension at the BKK Immigration Center. After filling out all the paperwork I handed it over together with the 500.- baht charge and was told to take a seat. After 10 minutes the clerk together with 2 uniformed officers approached me and escorted me up to the 2nd floor. My friend was just coming through the main doors after going out for beverages, she saw the look on my face and knew that something was wrong. In the first instance she was not allowed to come with me as the upper floors were for passport holders only.
I am shown to a room where there are a mixture of officials doing their stuff. I'm told to sit down and after a few minutes a big Thai official Col. Major, Capt, bla bla bla comes and sits opposite me. He doesn't say anything for what felt like a lifetime. He then asks "Have you been to Malaysia?" I didn't have any second thoughts about honesty being the best policy here. I told him that I had not been to Malaysia even though my passport stated the opposite. He replied "Good answer, if you had said yes then I would have locked you up straight away." The stamp was forged and the passport had not been out of the country!
Here am I sitting here with most of the proceedings going on in Thai and not knowing whether I'm going to be locked up or not, so I ask if my friend could join us to ease the communication. This was permitted and an officer went downstairs to fetch her. I was so pleased to see her I can tell you. It seems that the atmosphere improved tenfold after her arrival in the office. We were asked many questions about the travel agent and cost of the "visa stamp" I had in my passport. Full reports were written in English and Thai from my friend and I. Giving full co-operation seemed to work well, we were given water, fruit, coffee and one of the assistants even asked if she should make some sandwiches for us. This wasn't the treatment that I expected after hearing many not so positive stories about the Immigration Dept. Especially considering the fact the time was now 17:30 and the staff should have gone home at 16:00. This ordeal ended shortly after, I was told that I would not be given the 10 day extension and that I must leave the country the following day to obtain a new legitimate visa. I was even given the 500.- baht extension fee back.
So a word of warning to all. If you send your passport with an agent and get a stamp it doesn't mean that the stamp is legitimate – and if you do get caught out then be totally honest. Who knows, I could be in the IDC this day today if I had answered "yes" to the first question I was asked.
My best advice would be to not use these visa agents at all as you never know what mess you might be getting yourself into.
This story is bad enough but yeah, it could have been hellishly worse. Good advice.